Drug Wars

A partial transcript of an interview of
former Secretarg of State
George Shultz
Jim Lehrer
on MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour
Monday, 8 January 1990

Lehrer: You mention drugs. Let me ask you a domestic question. You made some waves recently by suggesting, publicly, that maybe the time had come to consider legalizing the sales of drugs in this country. What brought you to that conclusion?

Shultz: Thinking about it, reflecting on my experience andobserving what is taking place. And. I am not saying that weshould immediately do something, but I think we ought to explore very seriously a different way of thinking about this problem.Here is the way I view it.
Think of it not as one problem, but two problems. Problem number one is the use of drugs, the terrible damage it does to the individuals who use it, the human beings who use it and in some cases , that it induces in others who are innocent victims. So that's a big problem. I think we should do everything we can think of to do , to discourage people from using drugs, to try to persuade them that it's bad for them, bad for society. And do all the things we have done and I think are being done more energetically right now. A man named Jim Burke, who is working for President Bush on this, in trying to discourage the use ofdrugs, in mounting advertising campaigns. He is doing wonderfulwork. I wish that we could do more in rehabilitation. I wish wecould do more in things that put us in contact with pregnantwomen who are on drugs. I read in the paper that there are a lotof them that can't seem to make contact with people who mighthelp them. We ought to be making every effort we can in all thesedimensions.
The second aspect of this problem is this huge criminalnetwork that's there. And the thing that has gotten to me is:Here is this big network and the criminals have an incentive todevelop their market. They want to create addicts. I think that'sone of the reasons why you see these young kids being recruited,to go to other kids and try to get them addicted, because theyare trying to develop a market. And they use the youngstersbecause they are less libel to criminal prosecution, than peoplewho are older.
Now why is it that we have this big market? It is becausewe have created a situation where the price you can get for drugsfar exceeds its cost. So these people have money coming out oftheir ears. And we are financing a gigantic criminal network. Andthen we have to put in place a gigantic law enforcement networkto contest with it. So I ask, is there some way, we can figureout, in which through some controlled and careful manner we makedrugs ... We ge t to the people who are taking drugs and we try totreat them. We have to make drugs available to them in many casesI am sure. But basically to beat the criminals by taking awaytheir market. Now I don't know whether that can be done or not,but I think we ought to be working on that.

Lehrer: Congressman Charles Rangel, who is chairman of the HouseSelect Committee on drugs, was on this program two or three weeksago and he was critical of your position on this. And he said youdidn't have credibility because when you were Secretary of Stateyou ignored the drug problem as far as its international impactand all that. In other words you didn't do what you could havedone as Secretary of State, to do something about the drugproblem.

Shultz: Yes I happened to see that program. I am one of yourfollowers.

Lehrer: Delighted to hear that, Sir.

Shultz: And among other things, he said I never even made aspeech on the subject. So I sent him a couple of them that I hadmade.

Lehrer: Oh, you did?

Shultz: And as a matter of fact I worked rather hard an thisproblem, particularly, obviously in my job, the internationalaspects of it. And my motorcade was attacked and somebody triedto kill me in Bolivia, thanks for my efforts. I don't know who itwas, but I presume it was the drug people. Nobody can do enoughon this but I think we have to get at use. We have to pour greatresources into curtailing use. And it seems to me that ChairmanRangel and others ought to at least be willing to open theirminds up enough to say " Is there some way that we can change thestructure of this program, so we pull the rug out from underthese criminals and take away their market and take away theirprofit?" Because these gigantic returns their getting are causingus great problems in this country and just ruining many othercountries, like Columbia.


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